China–North Korea border

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China–North Korea border
Border stone china-corea.jpg
Inscription stone marking the border of China and North Korea in Jilin
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 中朝邊境
Simplified Chinese 中朝边境
Korean name
Chosŏn'gŭl 조선민주주의인민공화국-중화인민공화국 국경
Hancha 朝鮮民主主義人民共和國·中華人民共和國 國境
Revised Romanization Joseon Minjujuui Inmin Gonghwaguk – Junghwa Inmin Gonghwaguk Gukgyeong
McCune–Reischauer Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwagukᆞ – Chunghwa Inmin Konghwaguk Kukkyŏng

The China–North Korea border is the international border separating China and North Korea.


Sino-Korea Friendship Bridge, linking Dandong with North Korea

The border is 1,420 kilometres (880 mi) long.[1] From west to east, the Yalu River,[2] Paektu Mountain, and the Tumen River divide the two countries.

Dandong, in the Liaoning Province of China, on the Yalu River delta, is the largest city on the border.[3] On the other side of the river is the city of Sinuiju in North Pyongan Province, North Korea. The two cities are situated on the Yalu river delta at the western end of the border, near the Yellow Sea. Their waterfronts face each other and are connected by the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge.

There are 205 islands on the Yalu. A 1962 border treaty between North Korea and China split the islands according to which ethnic group were living on each island. North Korea possesses 127 and China 78. Due to the division criteria, some islands such as Hwanggumpyong Island belong to North Korea even though they are on the Chinese side of the river. Both countries have navigation rights on the river, including in the delta.

The source of the Yalu is Heaven Lake on Paektu Mountain, which is considered the birthplace of the Korean and Manchu peoples. This lake is also the source of the Tumen River which forms the eastern portion of the border.

There is a significant number of ethnic Koreans living on the Chinese side of the border, particularly in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture.

Trade and contact[edit]

The Beijing - Pyongyang passenger train passes Dandong

Its border with China has been described as North Korea's "lifeline to the outside world."[1] Much of the China-North Korea trade goes through the port of Dandong.[2]

Chinese cell phone service has been known to extend as far as 10 km (6 mi) into Korean territory, which has led to the development of a black market for Chinese cell phones in the border regions. International calls are strictly forbidden in North Korea, and violators put themselves at considerable peril to acquire such phones.[4]

Tourists in Dandong can take speedboat rides along the North Korean side of the Yalu and up its tributaries.[5]

A common wedding day event for many Chinese couples involve renting boats, putting life preservers on over their wedding clothes, and going to the North Korean border to have wedding photos taken.[6]

Memory cards and teddy bears are among the most popular items for North Koreans shopping in Dandong.[7]


There are rail crossings along the border at Dandong, Ji'an and Tumen.

The Ji'an Yalu River Railway Bridge between Ji'an, Jilin Province and Manpo, Chagang Province of North Korea.

The Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge, between Dandong in China and Sinuiju in North Korea, is the most heavily used rail connection between the two countries. Ji'an, upstream on the Yalu in Jilin Province and 400 km by rail from Siping, connects to Manpo in Chagang Province. Tumen, also in Jilin and 527 km east of Changchun is located across the Tumen River from Namyang, North Hamgyong Province.

There are four weekly trains with hard and soft sleepers from Beijing to Pyongyang, as well as a weekly carriage attached to the Vostok train from Moscow via Harbin, Shenyang and Dandong.[8]

Border security[edit]

The border at the Yalu River delta near Dandong in 2012

The border between North Korea and China has been described as "porous".[1] Many North Korean defectors cross into China. The Chinese government transferred responsibility for managing the border to the army from the police in 2003.[9]

In 2006 it was reported that China had erected a 20 kilometer fence on the border near Dandong, along stretches of the Yalu River delta with lower banks and narrower width. The fence was constructed of 2.5-metre (8 ft 2 in) high, T-shaped concrete poles strung with barbed wire.[2][10]

In 2007, a U.S. official stated that China was building more "fences and installations at key border outposts".[11]

In 2007, it was reported that North Korea had started building a fence along a 10-kilometre (6.2 mi) stretch of its side of the Yalu River, and had also built a road to guard the area.[12][13]

In 2011 it was reported that China was building fences 4 metres (13 ft) high near Dandong, and that 13 kilometers of this new fencing had been built. It was also reported that China was reinforcing patrols, and that new patrol posts were being built on higher ground to give wider visibility over the area. According to a resident of the area: "It's the first time such strong border fences are being erected here. Looks like it is related to the unstable situation in North Korea." The resident also added that previously "anybody could cross if they really wanted" as the fence had only been ten feet high with no barbed wire.[14][15]

A journalist who visited Dandong in 2014 reported a low level of security.[16] In 2015, fencing was reported as the exception rather than the rule.[17] In 2015, a photojournalist who traveled along the Chinese side of the border commented that fencing was rare and that it would be easy to cross the Yalu when it was frozen. The same report noted friendly contact between people on opposite sides of the border.[18]

In 2015, a single rogue North Korean soldier killed four ethnic Korean citizens of China who lived along the border of China with North Korea.[19]

Rumors of Chinese troop mobilizations on the border frequently circulate in times of heightened tension on the Korean peninsula. According to scholar Adam Cathcart, these rumors are hard to substantiate and hard to interpret.[20]

A leaked China Mobile document that went viral on Chinese social media on 7 December 2017 revealed Chinese government plans to construct five "refugee settlement points" along the border to North Korea in Changbai county and Jilin province.[21][22] The reason for this are apparent preparations to deal with a large influx of North Korean refugees in case the Kim regime collapses in a potential conflict with the United States. The Guardian quotes the document: "Due to cross-border tensions … the [Communist] party committee and government of Changbai county has proposed setting up five refugee camps in the county."[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Onishi, Norimitsu. "Tension, Desperation: The China-North Korean Border." The New York Times. October 22, 2006. Retrieved on October 23, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Kanto, Dick K. and Mark E. Manyin. China-North Korea Relations. DIANE Publishing. December 28, 2010. 10. Retrieved from Google Books on October 23, 2012. ISBN 1437985114, 9781437985115.
  3. ^ Rogers, Jenny. "New group reaches out to China." Gold Coast Bulletin. October 2, 2012. Retrieved on October 23, 2012.
  4. ^ North Korea: On the net in world's most secretive nation (BBC)
  5. ^ "A trip to the North Korea-China border, in photos". NK News. 29 May 2015. 
  6. ^ Hessler, Peter (2006). Oracle Bones. New York et al.: Harper Perennial. p. 62. 
  7. ^ Reuters (4 December 2016). "Thanks for the memory cards; North Koreans return from China". Retrieved 7 December 2016. 
  8. ^ "Trans-Siberian Railway Tours" Accessed 2014-05-25
  9. ^ Foley, James. “China Steps Up Security on North Korean Border”, Jane's Intelligence Review, 1 November 2003.
  10. ^ "China erects massive fence on N. Korean border after test"
  11. ^ "China Troops Increase at North Korean Border"
  12. ^ "North Korea building fence on China border"[dead link]
  13. ^ "Report: N. Korea building fence to keep people in". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on 1 May 2011. Retrieved 4 July 2009. 
  14. ^ Foster, Peter and agencies, Beijing. "China builds higher fences over fears of instability in North Korea." The Daily Telegraph. March 30, 2011. Retrieved on October 26, 2012.
  15. ^ "China boosts North Korea border fence." The China Post. Thursday March 31, 2011. Retrieved on October 26, 2012.
  16. ^ Comment: The absurdities faced by North Korean refugees in China
  17. ^ Rob York (25 February 2015). "The myth of a sealed China-N. Korea border". NK News. 
  18. ^ "A trip to the North Korea-China border, in photos". NK News. 29 May 2015. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ Cathcart, Adam (20 October 2017). "Tigers in the Haze: Chinese Troops on the Border with North Korea in the 'April Crisis'". China Brief, Jamestown University. 
  21. ^ "US-North Korea tensions fuel fears on Chinese border". Financial Times. 10 December 2017. 
  22. ^ Perlez, Jane (2017-12-11). "Fearing the Worst, China Plans Refugee Camps on North Korean Border". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-12-13. 
  23. ^ Phillips, Tom (2017-12-12). "China building network of refugee camps along border with North Korea". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-12-13. 

External links[edit]